Outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden has said the world must resist Russian "coercion and aggression," and urged the incoming Donald Trump administration to back Ukraine against Moscow.
Biden made the remarks in Kiev where he arrived on Monday to have a farewell meeting with Petro Poroshenko who became the president of Ukraine following the ouster of democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych in a 2014 US-backed uprising.
Standing next to Poroshenko, Biden said, “You're fighting both the cancer of corruption... and the unrelenting aggression of the Kremlin.”
“The international community must continue to stand as one against Russian coercion and aggression. It is Ukraine's best hope to move forward as a united country,” he added.
Biden, who has visited the country six times since February 2014, said that sanctions against Russia must stay in place until Moscow follows the terms of the Minsk peace deal.
Ukraine’s warring sides reached a deal, dubbed Minsk II, at a summit attended by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February 2015.
The agreement introduced measures such as a ceasefire, a pullout of heavy weapons and constitutional reforms in Ukraine by the end of that year. Russia says the government in Kiev and its Western allies have twisted the peace deal.
The Crimean peninsula declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014, and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the secession. The voter turnout in the referendum stood at 83.1 percent.
Since then, the US and some other Western countries have imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over accusations that Moscow has been involved in the deadly crisis in Ukraine, which broke out when Kiev launched military operations to crack down on pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine in 2015. Russia has denied the allegation.
"Together with our EU and G7 partners, we made it clear that sanctions should remain in place until Russia fully, emphasize fully, implements its commitments under the Minsk agreement," Biden said, adding that Crimea-related sanctions must also stay "until Russia returns full control to the people of Ukraine.”
The administration of President Barack Obama has said that economic sanctions against Russia should continue as long as Moscow fails to implement all aspects of the Ukraine peace agreement.
Trump, however, has suggested that the US should end its sanctions against Russia if Moscow agrees to a deal to cut nuclear weapons and cooperates with Washington on other issues such as terrorism.